Human rights | 10.06.11 | 13:56
Sexual abuse : Fear and shame make Armenian women keep silence
By Siranuysh Gevorgyan
Armenia-based experts say women subjected to sexual violence keep it in silence out of shame as well as for fear of being blamed by the society for ‘bringing it upon themselves’ ; hence, they refrain from reporting it to the police so that the wrongdoers be held responsible. Over the past two years, however, experts say, there has been tangible progress in that respect.
Head of the Women’s Resource Center Lara Aharonian stated during the discussion held by the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) on Wednesday (June 8) that the other reason why women avoid going to the police is their conviction that either the police wouldn’t believe them or will punish the person who committed the sexual offense.
The first experience of sexual intimacy for 27-year-old resident of Gyumri Seda Grigoryan (surname is fictional) was when her drunk boyfriend raped her under the influence of alcohol. Living in as traditional a place as Gyumri – the second largest city of Armenia known for its adherence to customs and traditions where sexual intercourse before marriage is strictly condemned – this young woman decided to keep silence about the incident out of fear and preferred to get married to the boyfriend that had subjected her to sexual violence. Seda, now a mother of two, tells she was supposed to marry that man in any case, but the incident “somehow forced her to marry” since she thought nobody else would want to marry her after what had happened [she wasn’t eligible for marriage because of her not being a virgin anymore]. She thought if she told the truth to her parents they wouldn’t have understood or supported her as she had been dating her then husband-to-be without their knowledge. That’s the reason why she did not even consider going to the police as an option.
To the question how that experience affected her family life Seda replied : “Nine years have passed since then, but I am still unable to forget it ; at firsts I felt coldness inside and resentment towards him, but now it’s a bit better – perhaps I have forgiven him as time went by, plus we have two children now.”
Aharonian says that last year the center’s hotline received 320 phone calls from women, with 35 percent of them saying they had been raped by a known person. In 2009, the center received only 140 calls. Aharonian explains it by raised public awareness. Many of last year’s calls were about cases of sexual harassment of middle-age women at their places of employment ; there were five cases of teenage rape, and in one of the cases the woman was drugged and raped.
Armenian mass media recently reported a case about a 14-year-old girl in Armenia’s southern Syunik province who was raped by her father. The girl’s mother learned about it when she took her daughter to a clinic for medical examination and the girl turned out to be pregnant. In this case the mother did not waste a minute and turned to the police, but, as the Hetq online daily reports, the father is still at large.
Artur Davtyan, deputy head of the department for crimes against the individual at the Prosecutor General’s office, said during the IWPR discussions that the effectiveness of struggle against sexual violence would go up parallel to raising public awareness.
“While in 2010 the number of solved cases was 82, which is nine more than the year before and that is not alarming, rather the opposite, if we look at it from a different perspective : these cases that were hidden have surfaced,” says Davtyan, adding that those NGOs that have designated hot-lines for reporting violence against women should develop mechanisms of cooperation with the police for reporting the cases.
Aharonian believes that a special group has to be formed at the police to deal with this issue.
“This is a highly delicate matter, and people to work in this sphere have to be extremely well-trained,” she says.
Voir également : Arménie : des femmes souffrent en silence